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A letter to a wounded self.
Dear Younger Me,
I am sorry that you learned far too early in life that the world is an unsafe place. No one else knew that the most unsafe places for children were with people they trusted.
I’m sorry that you were mocked, called names, left out, chosen last for the team, insulted, and teased relentlessly for being a girly girl—fragile, weak, delicate, and easy to break. No one knew what to say or do, neither did I. Bullying—that’s just what kids did.
I’m sorry that you were forced to keep secrets, to keep up with the Joneses, the status quo, our stellar reputation in the community and at church. No one knew that secrets breed shame, shame breeds silence, silence slices the pie of wholeness, healing and truth, and that you would be left with only the crumbs.
I’m sorry that you believed you deserved what happened to you, that you were groomed to believe that it was your fault, that somehow you invited or allowed it, and that the one person you dared to tell, would hurt you too, confirming your suspicions as accurate. No one knew that the most dangerous people in your midst passed as mini gods, behind titles, authority, influence, and power. No one knew what to tell you about what to do, when it was not a stranger.
I am sorry that I made you careful and cautious, that you seldom played outside hard enough to get dirty, or take your chances on the crazy carpet down the big hill, or take that risk at high jump. No one knew the price of playing small would affect you so much when you were big.
I am sorry I didn’t know better or do better—that I thought you were stupid, naive, pitiful, and irredeemable. No one knew that not all children live like in the fairy tales they read to you, that happy endings aren’t always about your Prince Charming coming to rescue you, or that—like Dorthy—you always had the power within yourself to find your way home.
I am sorry that I judged you—a child! I know damn well, now, that I would never inflict that upon any other child or adult for that matter. No one knew that you would spend decades trying to atone for other people’s sins because you claimed them as your own. That you would throw yourself under the bus for people walking on the sidewalk, and lay down your cloak of unworthiness atop the dirty, muddy puddles so that others didn’t get wet.
I am sorry little one. I led you to be a teenager who believed love implied your consent for you to be hurt; one who turned down a scholarship not believing your poetry was worthy of publication; one who stifled your activism and stopped marching because you didn’t want to be seen as a feminist, bra-burning witch; one who dropped out of the social justice club because you didn’t think you could make so much as a dent in this broken world; and one who stepped down from public speaking and the debate team because you stumbled.
I’m sorry I snuffed out your dreams.
I’m sorry I made you stop those dance classes after you forgot the moves. I’m sorry I neglected, injured, and shamed every inch of your body while feeding your mind with negative beliefs. I’m sorry that I made you take laxatives instead of taking up too much space.
I’m sorry that you became a door mat for people to wipe their feet on, and that you became codependent on the approval of others (often those who treated you the worst) only to be victimized again and again. I’m sorry that far too often you broke your own heart. No one knew that it wasn’t your self-esteem, the way that you dressed, the places you visited, friends you chose that kept you down—it was abuse.
Many misunderstood your reflexive smile and warmth to be flirting. No one knew that the hypervigilance you acquired in childhood would make you see danger where there was none, and blind you to the fact that predators have primitive instincts, hiding in plain sight.
I’m sorry to the adult you—to me—the one who believed she deserved what she settled for. Screw her!
But here we are, you and I. We are still here. I’m listening to you even though I despise the term “inner child.” I see where you fell. I feel your sense of fear and regret. I have heard your cries for justice, and your demand to be counted as worthy.
Dear Younger Me, I hug you. I applaud you. I give you the glory for our survival. I forgive you for all the times you didn’t know better, because baby, we have learned a lot along the way.
Kiddo, I have opened my mouth to give you an opportunity to speak now, and I will never ask you again to “forever hold your peace.”